My Mom Obsesses Over Her Love Life. She Couldn’t Care Less About Mine.

By | October 3, 2019

My father died two years ago. Since then, my mother began online dating. But she hasn’t dated in 40 years, and she’s reverted to acting like a teenager: falling in love too quickly, disclosing too much too soon. She recently met my partner for the first time, but she was so engrossed with her new love interest (and smartphone) that she made no effort to get to know him. I told my mother this was hurtful to me. I haven’t had a conversation with her in a year that hasn’t revolved around her dating life. She often calls me crying over weeklong flings. What’s a daughter to do? I’m the kid!


I’m sorry your mother didn’t make a bigger effort with your partner. But my stronger impulse is to ask you to be gentler with your mother about her loss. She’s been a widow for only two years. That’s like the blink of an eye in the face of a 40-year marriage.

It seems natural to me that she’s still floundering. Her relationship with your father was probably one of the organizing principles of her adult life. If she behaves foolishly as she begins to grapple with her future, cut her some slack. Her purpose on this earth is not solely to be your mother. You may be “the kid,” as you say, but you’re not a child anymore. (And you’ve both suffered a big loss.)

I suggest setting some boundaries. Decide how much you want to hear about your mother’s dating life and tell her gently. She is likely just distracting herself from her uncertainty and grief with much of her online nonsense. No need to offer a remedial class in dating. When she’s ready to get serious, she will. She may need this transitional phase, though, before she can get on with her life. Be kind!

CreditChristoph Niemann

My in-laws invited my husband and me on a family vacation. They paid for the flights of one his siblings and the hotel of another. But they didn’t offer to pay anything for us. Then they expressed sadness when we opted to stay with friends nearby, instead of at their pricey hotel. I’m disappointed with their inconsistent treatment of their children. I’m fine with our decision to stay with friends, but I’m nervous that they will express displeasure about it during the vacation. What should I say if they do?


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Your husband’s silence is screaming out to me here. Does he understand his parents’ rationale, or does he share your disappointment? This may be heresy, but I get why parents may treat children in different circumstances differently. I would expect a conversation, though: “You’re a neurosurgeon; your brother is between jobs.”

I could also understand his parents’ decision if you and your husband are partners at Goldman Sachs, for instance, and they are retired schoolteachers. I would still expect some acknowledgment: “You’re a million times richer than we are!”

But if all three siblings are similarly situated, and your husband agrees with you, let him address his parents’ “sadness” directly: “We’re staying with friends to save money. We don’t understand why you’re not subsidizing us, but it’s your money. We’ll see each other plenty on vacation.”

If your husband doesn’t share your concern, though, your beef is with him, not his parents. So, let him handle their displeasure.

I read in a random email that a dear friend passed away in July. I was close to her family, but no one told me she died. I am heartbroken and kind of upset that nobody notified me. What do I do? How do I know if this email is even true?


Things fall through the cracks when people we love die. Her family may have been distraught. It’s possible that communication isn’t their strong suit. But I would be shocked if the error was intentional. An online search or conversation with a mutual friend will confirm the facts.

I also get your anger at being left out. Try not to dwell on it. It may be easier to feel resentment now, but don’t let it overshadow the loss of your dear friend. That’s the truer blow. Express your condolences, find a way to commemorate your friend, and allow yourself time to heal.

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I was watching a sad movie with my boyfriend. When he saw tears on my cheeks, he handed me his handkerchief. I took it, but then felt super grossed out. It was sweet of him, but the thought of drying my tears with fabric that may have snot smeared all over it was distressing. Thoughts?


I take your point. But let’s focus on your boyfriend’s attentiveness instead of mucous, shall we? Handkerchiefs can pretty safely be categorized as a vestige of another time. (My father never left home without one, while I find myself blowing my nose into paper napkins.)

No need to make a federal case of this. The next time your boyfriend offers you his handkerchief, acknowledge his thoughtfulness and then wave him off.

For help with your awkward situation, send a question to, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.